MARKET traders are renewing their plea to move back to where they were before the pandemic – as the new lockdown threatens their future even more.

Darlington’s outdoor market was relocated to the Market Square in June but since then traders say they have noticed a steep decline in their takings, with some no longer attending.

Now – with a second lockdown preventing traders selling non-essential goods from operating – Angela Smedley, who runs Angie’s Diner, said she expected two stalls on today’s market and three on Monday.

She said: "They are playing God with people's livelihoods. There were 25 people successfully trading before we relocated. Before lockdown we were averaging about eight. People are just hanging on and hoping we get relocated back to where the retail offer is."

They are continuing to make their case to Darlington Borough Council and have given them fresh evidence on how other markets in the region have bounced back after the first lockdown.

Michael Nicholson, of the National Market Traders Federation, who attended a meeting with the council last week to try and convince a change of heart, said: “It’s having a devastating impact on trade. There’s no doubt about it.”

He added: “Other markets in the area have not suffered as much, some are booming since we’ve been back. Richmond are up to 20 or 25 traders while Darlington are losing traders all the time.

“We all know that it was the original market place and it was a booming area but unfortunately the town centre has moved since then.”

"The comment I’ve heard is the market offer isn’t good enough but it is not going to get better if they are in a place where they can’t take money because they will go somewhere they can.”

He added he hoped there would be a bounce back for markets. He said: "Whenever there are a lot of redundancies people are looking for another way to make a living and the market industry tends to recover.

“Now a lot of people in retail are being made redundant and they are going to try and find a way to set up businesses – markets are an ideal way to set-up.”

A council spokesperson said: "Darlington is a proud market town and we remain totally committed to our market heritage. We share this passion with the market traders and have listened to their concerns. However, we are also committed to the market remaining in the market square and see it as complementary to our Indoor Market which is to undergo a major refurbishment.

“As well as being the historic home of the outdoor market, the market square is also, in the pandemic situation we are in, the safest place for the stalls, offering plenty of room for shoppers to circulate in an outdoor area. We understand that trading conditions are challenging and we are keen to support all town centre businesses, through our #LoveDarlo and Enjoy Darlington marketing platforms and take up of other Government support."